Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hat and Zvezda Roman Auxiliaries

I bought a box of Hat's Roman auxiliaries back when they came out in 2003 (see photo, left).  I've been meaning to paint them up for a WAB army. Zvezda came out with their auxiliaries in 2007 (see photo, right). I just got a box last week. They're great sculpts, with especially nice command models. I know Zvezda is generally larger than Hat, but I thought the difference would still be acceptable. Nope! Maybe when looking down on a tabletop the difference won't be so noticeable, but up close they're pretty incompatible.

Hat's auxiliaries are really small. They're actually kind of small when compared to other Hat models—especially the newer sets. They match up very well with Hat's Legionaries, and the Zvezda auxiliaries tower above my Celts and Romans, so I'm sticking with Hat for my WAB army.

See full sprue photo on PSR:
Hat Imperial Roman Auxiliary Infantry

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Custom Celt Shields

I'm working on a 1/72 barbarian army for WAB. My guys are Iron Age British, so I wanted shields specific to Britain. The Battersea Shield with it's outward top and bottom curves has become the typical British Celtic shield among illustrators and mini manufacturers. However, more recent archaeological evidence suggests that the most common shield in Iron Age Britain was the hide-shaped shield pictured above. (See Stead's article bellow)

To make my shields I bought .75mm sheet styrene (plastic card). The nice thing about this stuff is that you can score once or twice with a blade, then snap off a piece. I selected the Italeri/Zvezda celts because the shields in this set are separate from the figures. I started out free-hand drawing the hide-shaped shield, but found that it was easier to trace the set's oval shield instead. I traced the line with an X-Acto blade and drilled a whole with the same blade. I filed the shield edges, and I sculpted the shield bosses with Kneadatite (green stuff).

My slinger on the left is holding a shield based on the Hjortspsring find (see celtic shields article bellow).

Related Reading:
Stead, I.M., ‘Many more Iron Age shields from Britain’, The Antiquaries Journal, 71. 1991

Brozyna, A. 'Celtic and German Shields,' article on

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Caesar Goblins (Ultima Gremlins)

"This tiny creature travels in a pack and attacks in a large group. Its primary threat is that it likes to steal food." —Ultima VII guidebook

Among PC RPGs the Ultima series had the uncommon requirement of feeding your company. Food could be purchased in the villages' pubs, or it could be obtained through hunting. If your characters went without eating for too long they starved to death! Consequently, these little thieving gremlins could be quite troublesome in the wilderness.

Caesar Miniatures is a toy soldier company producing plastic models in 1/72 scale. They specialize in historic models, but in 2007 they came out with some very nice fantasy sets. I'm already heavy into 1/72 historics and 28mm fantasy, so I had been trying to resist getting into still another genre/scale. But! I finally have a reason to buy a box of their F105 Goblins. When these 1/72 goblins are compared to 28mm figure, they are the perfect size for the diminutive gremlins in Ultima's Britannia.

I mounted these little goblins/gremlins on pennies. In the second photo I painted a hand grenade to look like apple. I removed a knife and sculpted a bag (of food), and I presume the third gremlin is throwing rocks, but I painted tham as potatoes.

Song of Blades and Heroes has stats for gremlins. It might be interesting to figure out some special rule to represent the gremlins' theft of food.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Danish Nisse

The snowy model I submit to you is a Danish nisse. These are the gnomes of Scandinavia. They have different names depending on which country you're in. Nisser (pronounced "niss-uh") are known in Norway and Denmark. In Finland these are known as the tonttuja, and in Sweden they are the tomtar. I learned about these little guys while reading up on Scandinavian Christmas customs (my wife is half Danish). An ancient tradition, the nisser have roamed the rural areas of the north since pre-Christian times. At Christmas the Jul nisse comes to your home expecting a bowl of rice pudding. If he is disappointed, then you can expect trouble!
I don't really know where my model came from. It's just one of many miscellaneous minis that I have had for years. At left is a photo of the model before I stripped the factory paint-job and repainted it myself. My treatment mounts the mini to a 25mm round base with white-painted sand. The sand has an undercoat of light blue to give some depth to the white snow. It's always satisfying to refurbish a mini with a crumby paint-job!

There are two lovely children's books about a nisse. They were written by the author of Pipi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren. She is Swedish, so they books are titled the Tomten and The Tomten and the Fox.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Dupré has always been one of my favorite characters in the Ultima PC games. He's a rogue with alot of gusto—kind of a Han Solo type. My Dupré model comes from Black Tree Designs' 100 Years War range. The shield provides a great way to brand the model as a character from Ultima. It's emblazoned with the ankh, a symbol important in the fictional world of Britannia. Rather than a plain steel sword, I attempted to paint a magical blue glow.

The image at left is from Ultima VII.

See Dupré's bio on Ultima Wikia.


In the Ultima series if PC RPGs, Katrina is a companion of the Avatar. As with many of the characters, Katrina is based on a real-life friend of game-creator, Richard Gariott. The above model is from the German manufacturer, Metal Magic. That company is now out of business, but it's molds were purchased by Mega Miniatures. The models is available for $1.50! Unfortunately, there isn't anything particularly distinctive about Katrina's appearance. So, apart from the hair color, I have to admit that there's really not that much to this model that marks it as Katrina.

While playing Ultima I never really had Katrina in my party. By the time I reached her island home, New Magincia, I had all the companion slots filled.

See Katrina's bio on Ultima Wikia.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Manx Loghtan Sheep

These sheep come from Gripping Beast. The models were sculpted specifically to look like the Manx Loghtan. This is a very ancient and rare breed with the unusual trait of both males and females growing multiple horns. It is thought these descend from the livestock of the Norsemen when they met with the native Celtic sheep in the north of Britain. The breed survived into modern times in isolation on the Isle of Man.

The horn-blowing shepherd is a model from Old Glory Miniatures' Revolting Peasants set. The wolves are old Grenadier sculpts. These are available from Wolves no longer roam Britain. They were killed off in the 1600s.

Mega Miniatures also sells a very nice ram model and sheep, which could work very well as Shetland sheep. (I sold this one on eBay last year.)

A fun use of livestock models in tabletop gaming is to set them as targets for raids (as in PigWars). Points could be awarded for each stolen sheep. The Song of Blades and Heroes's supplement, Song of Arthur and Merlin, includes rules for raiding livestock. Setting grazing sheep models on the tabletop also adds to the pastoral ambience of the terrain!

Related Reading:
Wade-Martins, P., The Manx Loghtan Story. The Decline and Revival of a Primitive Breed. Geerings of Ashord Ltd. (publ. in association with the RBST.), 1990.110 pp.

Ancient British sheep article on the Butser Ancient Farm website.